AOPA's aggressive lobbying efforts are making a significant impact on Capitol Hill, AOPA President Phil Boyer told some 200 FBO owners and airport managers at the Illinois Aviation Conference on May 23.
"We came within one vote of defeating the $25 IFR user fee in the Senate bill," Boyer said, "and that amendment would not have happened without our behind-the-scenes work and the incredible support of AOPA members."
The association had asked some 135,000 members in key states to call their senator serving on the Commerce aviation subcommittee, so that Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) could garner the votes and support they needed to advance their amendment that would have stripped user fees from the Senate bill.
As the newspaper Congressional Daily noted, "The aggressive lobbying nearly paid off." The publication quoted Commerce Committee ranking member Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) saying, "They had every pilot call senators' offices." Seven of 10 Republicans on the subcommittee broke ranks with Lott and voted against user fees.
"And we have reason to believe that more will eventually take a stand against user fees if the issue makes it to the Senate floor," Boyer said.
Boyer and AOPA's legislative affairs staff will continue lobbying as the legislative battle ground shifts to the Senate Finance Committee, the next stop for the FAA funding bill.
Meanwhile, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), aviation subcommittee chairman, are working on their version of the FAA bill.
"There will be an FAA funding bill coming out of the House as well, and Representative Costello will be absolutely key to protecting the interests of general aviation," Boyer told the Illinois audience.
Both Oberstar and Costello have been very vocal in expressing their distaste for user fees in general, and for the FAA's version of a funding bill in particular.
Boyer explained that the House FAA funding bill will likely pass through five committees before it hits the House floor, "and what the House approves will most likely have sections that are different than the Senate's final bill."
That will present many opportunities for AOPA's lobbying efforts to convince lawmakers to maintain the current funding system and reject user fees for any segment of aviation.
Since a new FAA funding bill must be approved by both the Senate and House and signed by the president before September 30 in order for the FAA to continue operations uninterrupted, "it's going to make for an interesting, busy summer for your general aviation advocates on Capitol Hill," said Boyer.
May 23, 2007